"Just" Trails - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 03:11 PM Thread Starter
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"Just" Trails

This journal focuses on trail riding and working with a trail trained horse. I am not yet blessed to have a 5,000 acre ranch space of my own to do with what I wish, nor to live a hundred miles away from the nearest shopping center with plenty of open riding country to use. I do however consider myself very lucky to be able to keep my horses at home, to have five horses, two of whom are above all else, suited for trails and, since I was able to retire early, to have a lot of time to spend doing what I enjoy.

I began riding at age 8 and am going to be 49 this year. Through the years, I’ve tried many things with horses; some have been dabbled in, some explored, and some, tried a few times and decided quickly it wasn’t for me. I dabbled in my youth in Western Pleasure showing, in more recent exploits, explored Western Dressage and tried arena jumping, general English riding, cutting, roping and barrel racing. What I always come back to is trails. Not because it is easy but, because there is no pinnacle, no point where you can claim a deliniated mastery, only continual learning. Every ride has the potential to become the challenge of your life.

There is always a bigger challenge to be had, something new to be done, a new obstacle that you have not seen before and ALWAYS something new to learn for BOTH horse and rider. Seek and ye shall find. Of all of the types of riding there is, trail riding requires a certain logically based, flexible, creative thinking that I never found in any of the other disciplines that I have tried.

Nature is a retreat, a place of ever changing order, beauty unpredictability and sometimes, danger. It is never the same place twice when it is left to its own way.

Warning, Mini Rant following: I often see the terms "just a trail rider" or "recreational rider" or even a reference to recreationally used horses as "pets" thrown around in nearly a disparaging way. As if to say, that because one is not paid to ride (the dividing line between recreational and professional), it requires no special skills, conditioning, discipline or knowledge from the horse or rider. It implies, either intentionally or unintentionally, that because there is no ribbon or paycheck at the end of a ride, there can be no knowledge, experience or approach worth consideration coming from them.

After all, if you are good at it, why not make $ doing it, right?. Some people would just rather ride their own horses than spend their time fixing other people's. The money isn't worth the cost in time and dealing with sometimes difficult people. It really can be that simple.

Like in all disciplines, in trail riding there are those who take the time to train the details and those who do not. Craigs list is filled with ill mannered horses that are rarely ridden beyond the occasional hack out every month or so, or are too old for winning competitions, are injured or disabled and automatically labeled as "trail horses". If you have ever test ridden some of them with the aim of seriously riding trails, it quickly becomes apparent which horses have the training, physical ability and/or demeanor to really be serious trail horses and which are just not naturally cut out for it.

However, just as a Western Pleasure rider might find it insulting to be lumped in with "peanut rollers", a saddle seat or dressage competitor might find it insulting to be lumped together with abusive training practices, people who peruse trail riding seriously (though recreationally) and who are constantly looking to improve their skills and that of their horses, also have the right to feel the same indignation when it is assumed their horses are spoiled "pets" and they are "just"____fill in the blank. (Mini rant done).

One of the Authors who most changed me in life was a man by the name of Ralph Waldo Emmerson. He was a leader in the transcendentalist movement of the early half of the 17th century (1820-50). I wouldn’t say I am a transcendentalist but, the older I get, the more their style of wisdom is appealing. For instance:

“Every minute you remain angry, you give up 60 seconds of peace of mind”

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.”

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

“We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state.”

Transcendentalists emphasize individualism, seeking your own true nature, not giving into the pressures of society (when given the chance, choose the road less traveled), the goodness of humans in their natural state, the values of self-reliance amongst other things.

I do part with Emerson on several issues but, without him, I never would have found Henry David Thoreau who, opened me up to the value of living simply in natural surroundings and learning from observing the natural world.

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

“Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another?”

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

“Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.”

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.”

“The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.”

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?”

“It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.”

Great thanks to my Freshman High School English teacher who introduced me to the philosophies and musings of both of these gentlemen. They have come in handy throughout life. They taught me to stop and smell the roses instead of always worrying about the thorns.

If you don’t like the above quotes or attitudes, you can probably stop following this journal now, as it will probably waste your time.

This is who I am. It is how I approached raising five children, dealing with ups and downs in my life. Now, with three of the five on their own, I have a little peace and quiet, finally, getting to do what I want, when I want, for the first time since I was a child; namely, ride and make the horses I come into contact with, however briefly, better for having known me.

“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer


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post #2 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 03:55 PM
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Subbing. This is going to be a fantastic journal. :)

Don't judge someone's horse or skill because they don't compete or work with a trainer.

Sometimes they're the most in tune with each other.
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post #3 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 04:26 PM
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Subbing. Wonderful.

One of my pet peeves is when people treat me like I know nothing about horses' care. The think that, because I'm young, I don't know how much work they are. Haha, not true--I know plenty.

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post #4 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 05:15 PM Thread Starter
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Review of Camping Outing at Pace Bend Park, Spicewood Texas.
February 24 -25



This past weekend, before it got buggy and hot, we decided to camp out. For years, when the oldest children were young we did a lot of back country camping. The kind where you got to trek in on foot and carry all your worldly necessities on your back. Then we got the bright idea to get an RV for the sake of convenience and expediency. It has been over a decade since we have done any “real” camping. So long in fact, that my youngest, #5 at 13 years old has never been camping in the old-fashioned sense of the word, much less with horses. That finally changed this weekend!

Pace Bend is a State run Park of approximately 1368 acres. Being only 45 minutes West of Austin, it attracts large crowds especially in the summer months with boaters and cliff divers/jumpers. This time of year, mostly trail runners, hikers and mountain bikers are to be found.

The entire time we were there, we only saw one other horse trailer. There were however many people in the park. There was a 5k run, a cycling race and a Boy Scout Jamboree.

The park has approximately 400 "primitive" sites where equestrian camps are allowed. Primitive, meaning you have a picnic table, a fire ring, pit toilets and other than the lake, only one other spot to draw water from. If you want to get to a site that is not bordering one of the smaller roads, you have the choice to either hike in a short distance or off road it. We chose to off road it and haul the trailer up.

There was good tree cover where we chose to camp (Mud Cove) and it was far enough from the lake that the gnats and flies were not too bad yet.

Mistake #1: The horses were kept on a picket line, which, I realized too late, I forgot my step stool so the first picket line was pathetically low and saggy. Waited for Dear Husband to come to the camp after work and tighten it up that night, then move it to a higher tree the next morning.

The horses spent the night tied short to picket keepers and longer, where the rope could slide back and fourth in the hour between rides or when we were at camp and keeping a close eye on them. Tied on a longer lead, they only tangled with a foot over once or twice in the daytime. Since we were there, usually eating our own meal and rehydrating, we were there to fix the situation, before they got themselves into a bind.

This is the first time that these horses have been tied to a picket line and the first time they have been tied overnight. They have however been taught to tie and stand for long periods of time, wear hobbles and ground tie previously. The picketing was my biggest worry but, they did just fine.

Mistake #2: Not having camped in so long we have since given away a lot of our previous equipment, including our cold weather sleeping bags. Being cheap, I decided to not buy new stuff and just bring piles and piles of blankets along. It ended up costing us a night of peaceful sleep and was integral in the decision not to stay the second night to try to squish a bit more riding in this morning. I knew better but, talked myself into believing we hadn't become that wimpy to the cold (40 degrees F) Lesson learned, don't skimp on the important stuff!

On the first day my daughter and I got the camp set up and explored the park, getting the horses used to the sights sounds and smells. They have not been ridden off property since the fall and were a bit antsier than normal. Some of the things they took a few hours to adjust to; the tents, the vehicle traffic, some of it loud, children running about screaming, joggers with strollers, Frisbees, kites, and very odd looking speed bumps, similar to these.


No spooks or major problems, only a heightened state of alertness until they settled in.

We took two rides that day.

On the first ride first we went north to the tip of the park where we thought they had closed off an area to riding and then south, to a point that was blocked off due to a prescribed burn. We stuck mostly to the roads on the first ride, as we found that the horses were quite calm on the trails and much more nervous in the area with all of the people doing their thing.

The second ride we went into the interior (inside the Grisham Trail road loop) where it is much more rocky and is a mountain biking haven. This is part of the "straddle your saddle" trail



Late Friday night is when all of the people began flooding in. By morning, the camp looked very different than the day before, so our first ride of the day was again to the north point and then the south, that we had done the previous day. This time they had a few more things to deal with.

A pontoon boat was parked up on the beach and we passed within ten feet of it. There were about five personal water craft in bright colors bobbing on the waves as well. Then we went through the Boyscout jamboree, which was camped on both sides of the road. Fishing poles, fishing nets being cast, soccer balls, flags flying, people running every which direction added to the scene.

My daughter made a big leap of confidence in herself and her horse when Caspian baulked and wouldn't go through the middle of the mayhem and she pushed him through anyway. It was a good ride.

Our second ride that day: A friend of mine lives only a few minutes from the park and was willing to haul two of her horses out as well as another friend of hers from Germany to ride with us that afternoon. My friend couldn't ride because she broke her ankle last week breaking up a dog fight, so it was only three of us who headed out.

Turns out the area that I thought was a "no go" was actually just closed off to vehicle traffic. It was some of the easiest and most scenic riding we did all weekend; flat and rock free with beautiful scenery all along the shores of the coves. Very nice to do some flat out runs for long stretches. It looked to be an area of the park that was once used for camping but, was abandoned now. It had a kind of ghostly look to it. The horses didn't seem to mind and we were all having a good time of it.

Back to camp. Water the horses, grab a snack and go out for a third ride, this time back to the trails on the interior. Much, much more rocky and with some mild slope, sometimes stairs of limestone sheet rock only.

Here is where I am going to warn anyone thinking of riding this park. The friend's horse we were riding with is so-so on rock when barefoot. She was shod, but she began showing some signs of being "ouchy" on the rocks about an hour in. A set of boots for her in retrospect, might have been a good idea.

In spots, it looked like someone had dumped a load of rip-rap out and called it a trail, other parts were nice and smooth for running but, you had to go through the rocky trails to get to the smoother ones. Ours did fine on the rock barefoot but, thanks to mother nature (vs. anything we have really done) ours both have extra ordinarily tough feet.

Now personal picture time....

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“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer


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post #5 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 05:31 PM Thread Starter
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More Pics...I have to get better at remembering to take them while riding!

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“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer


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post #6 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 06:48 PM
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So much to love here! I can't wait to follow your journal.

First, so glad the camping trip happened and was exciting, even if you had some unexpected moments. Your daughter is lucky to have you :)

Second, I am definitely guilty of contributing to this "just trail riding" stereotype because I tend to introduce myself and my horse that way. I'm not nearly as good a rider as most of the other people at my barn, and my horse is a senior citizen. I sort of downplay what we do and what we've accomplished together in the past few years, until I realize that people are actually pretty surprised that I go out and about alone on my tiny little mare. I need to give her (us) a little more credit.

Finally, if you ever find yourself up in New England, I'd love to take you to Walden Pond. It can get crowded during the tourist season, but it's beautiful to visit.
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post #7 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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Funny or odd things that happened on this trip/things we need to work on:

I mentioned there was a 5k run happening. We could see the road where the runners went past. At first there were two runners, then five, then a dozen. The first small group went past and it caught the horses’ attention. The second group passed and the horses were on alert. When the third group passed they became visibly nervous. You could almost see them bracing for whatever dangerous thing all of those people were running away from!

In the opposite reaction at one point, about fifty scouts walked by on the camp road to an open field to do some, what looked to be practicing a grid search for search and rescue. At the time DH and #5 had both horses out hand walking near the road. DH had Oliver and called me to come get him because Oliver was making him nervous trying to follow the troop to wherever they were going. I made Oliver stand and watch them. Only once he was calmed, did we then follow them for a distance before returning to camp. He was very interested in watching them from camp the entire time.

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Oliver has gotten very bad about dealing with his excitement to hit the trails. He has slid backwards in his manners both while being saddled and while being mounted during his time off from trailering out. He is still fine when at home but, this weekend, he was horrible! It was like he just couldn’t contain his excitement. He wanted to go-go-go…NOW! This will be something I will be penciling time to work on during our next trip.

He has done this before (when I put medicine/supplements in his feed), so it does not seem accidental. I don’t know if this was his idea of letting me know his thoughts on being picketed all night or maybe his way of relieving boredom? I went to feed him his pellets in the morning and found this…..

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Not one drop wasted, a perfect bulls eye!

Another funny moment happened when some of the children at a family gathering were using the hammocks as a swing. The horses ignored them until they started yelling "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" at which time both of their heads shot up and they stood staring as if to say "I am not moving!".

“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer



Last edited by Reiningcatsanddogs; 02-27-2017 at 12:00 AM.
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post #8 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 08:28 PM
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What a great journal. Thanks for sharing your adventure and I'm looking forward to reading about more.

Out of all the things you can do with horses, trail riding is what I love the best. You can do it alone, just you and your horse, or you can have company. Either way, for me, it's the most enjoyable thing. There are a lot of disciplines that you can use on the trail too. I just get so bored so quickly with the arena.

There will be only one of you for all time. Fearlessly be yourself.
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post #9 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 08:57 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by egrogan View Post
So much to love here! I can't wait to follow your journal.

First, so glad the camping trip happened and was exciting, even if you had some unexpected moments. Your daughter is lucky to have you :)

Second, I am definitely guilty of contributing to this "just trail riding" stereotype because I tend to introduce myself and my horse that way. I'm not nearly as good a rider as most of the other people at my barn, and my horse is a senior citizen. I sort of downplay what we do and what we've accomplished together in the past few years, until I realize that people are actually pretty surprised that I go out and about alone on my tiny little mare. I need to give her (us) a little more credit.

Finally, if you ever find yourself up in New England, I'd love to take you to Walden Pond. It can get crowded during the tourist season, but it's beautiful to visit.
Sadly, so am I. Somewhere along the way I fell into the trap of thinking it is "Just" a trail ride and then I look at how many good riders on good horses have difficulties and ending up injured. It really made me take a step back and look at what we, as a team, were really accomplishing each and every ride.

I don't tend to get up your way all that often but, I'd love to see Walden Pond and spend some time there trying to see what Thoreau saw there.

“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer


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post #10 of 251 Old 02-26-2017, 08:58 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlindHorseEnthusiast4582 View Post
Subbing. This is going to be a fantastic journal. :)
I hope it lives up to your expectations!
SwissMiss and Hondo like this.

“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer


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